Welcome to A&A. There are 13 full reviews in this issue. Click on an artist to jump to the review, or simply scroll through the list. If you want information on any particular release, check out the Label info page. All reviews are written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.

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A&A #275 reviews
(June 2006)
  • Avenpitch Butterfly Radio (Omega Point)
  • El Aviador Dro !Electrico! (Omega Point)
  • The Bank Robbers Tomorrow Belongs to Me (No Milk)
  • The Capstan Shafts The Sleeved and Granddaughters of the Blacklist (self-released)|Euridice Proudhon (Kittridge)
  • Geater Davis The Lost Soul Man 2xCD (AIM)
  • Elf Power Back to the Web (Rykodisc)
  • Final Fantasy He Poos Clouds (Tomlab)
  • Kinetic Sun & Glacier (Paribus)
  • Model One Rooms EP (self-released)
  • Prototypes Prototypes (Minty Fresh)
  • The Stills Without Feathers (Vice-Atlantic)
  • The Streets The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living (Vice-Atlantic)
  • Yagihashi Tsukasa Automatic (Public Eyesore)
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest

    Butterfly Radio
    (Omega Point)

    Avenpitch's blend of new wave derring-do and modern guitar crunch makes the band one of Omega Point's most accessible acts. Indeed, I don't know anyone who wouldn't succumb to the pleasures of this album.

    I suppose it does help to have come of age in the 1980s, but remember: the 80s were the last time the "Top 40" mattered. Radio splintered, audiences splintered and music went to hide in all sorts of segregated corners.

    Yes, yes, the 80s were hardly a time of purity and light. But shit, when you distill pop music down to catchy guitar riffs and sprightly keyboard bits, well, I think you're on to something. Avenpitch is more than that. These folks are absofreakinbrilliant.

    Shiny, thrashing, gorgeous and loud. Imagine a combination of Judas Priest (the keyboard albums), Devo, Kraftwerk, the Human League and Buzzcocks. And then distill those ideas to their pure pop essences. Ahh, Avenpitch. Nectar of the gods. I've loved these folks for a while, and this album utterly sears my soul. I'd sell it to Avenpitch in a second.

    Omega Point Records
    4707 N. Springfield, 2F
    Chicago, IL 60625
    www: http://www.omegapointrecords.com

    El Aviador Dro
    (Omega Point)

    A hefty retrospective from this Spanish electronic outfit. Eighteen songs from 28 years. Maybe this isn't hefty enough.

    It definitely isn't. The pieces here are playful and engaging. My high school Spanish isn't good enough to follow along perfectly, but I think I'm safe in saying the music is what counts here. And the tunes are great.

    Yes, you have to like weird, vaguely atonal electronic jams. I mean, that's what these folks play. Unlike Kraftwerk, though, the songs are generally tight and short. More of a pop structure, even if the melodies do take flight now and again.

    More new wave for the new century--even if most of this is from the old one. El Aviador Dro has been making cool music for almost three decades. I think this disc proves that us folks in America ought to be hearing a lot more of it.

    Omega Point Records
    4707 N. Springfield, 2F
    Chicago, IL 60625
    www: http://www.omegapointrecords.com

    The Bank Robbers
    Tomorrow Belongs to Me
    (No Milk)

    Extremely earnest, nearly prehistoric-sounding emo. Strident guitars, anthemic verses (much less choruses) and group vocals abounding. Takes me back...with pleasure.

    I didn't know bands wanted to sound like this anymore. Or maybe I'm way out of touch with the mainstream and this is current "thing." Quite possible. In any case, the tight production sound on these raucous performances locks in something special.

    The Bank Robbers don't screw around. They give their songs lengthy titles (see "The Truth Is Rarely Pure, and Never Simple" and "Here's Your Song You've Never Wanted") and don't mess around with silly concepts such as metaphor. This is as straightforward as it gets (that's the "earnest" thing, I guess). I can appreciate that.

    And it just sounds so good. Very sharp production, but the playing and singing is just ragged enough to keep me smiling. The Bank Robbers save all their complexity for the music, and that works very well.

    No Milk Records
    P.O. Box 1229
    Jackson, NJ 08527
    www: http://www.nomilkrecords.com

    The Capstan Shafts
    The Sleeved and Granddaughters of the Blacklist
    Euridice Proudhon

    Two full-length efforts from Dean Wells and whoever else might be part of the Capstan Shafts. Wells is a somewhat mysterious figure, cranking out an EP every month or two (you can scour my archives to find any number of reviews in the last year) in handmade envolopes to trolls of the underground like me. The songs are short (generally limited to two minutes or less), but there are many more tracks than usual on these two albums.

    Blacklist contains 20 songs, and the sound is very similar to prvious efforts: lo-fi to the extreme. I will say, though, that the levels aren't quite as pegged as usual, so there isn't quite so much distortion around the edges. That lets the songs work a bit more of their charm. I like that, myself.

    As for Euridice, well, it only makes sense that if Wells were to associate with a label, it would be one like Kittridge that specializes in artists who have lengthy self-released catalogs. The mastering is much better--this stuff is hardly lo-fi. The songs jump out from the speakers...and they really benefit from the treatment. A lot of folks reference GBV when talking about Capstan Shafts, but the sonic improvement here puts me in more of a Brian Jonestown Massacre mood.

    The Kittridge album is superior, if only for the better sound. I've always thought Wells's songs were great, and Euridice proves it. Sometimes you really do have to hear what you're missing to appreciate the difference. And boy, were we missing a lot.

    Dean Wells
    P.O. Box 208
    Lyndonville, VT 05851

    Kittridge Records
    P.O. Box 662011
    Los Angeles, CA 90066
    www: http://www.kittnet.com

    Geater Davis
    The Lost Soul Man 2xCD
    (AIM International)

    The term "soul music" means many things to many people. Most folks can agree on Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye. After that, well, you get in trouble.

    Geater Davis is from the second generation. He uses plenty of rock and blues in his songs, and he's not afraid to shift from Muscle Shoals-esque horns to electric piano jams. What carries through every song is his utterly pure voice. Listen for two seconds, and there's no doubt he's a true soul man.

    He's something of a growler and a wailer, not unlike Edwin Starr or, more correctly, Bobby Womack. These are songs of love and loss--and more loss than love, to be sure. If Davis had been 20 years older, he would have been a blues man. His songs still retain many blue touches, but by and large he remains committed to the soul side of the tracks.

    These songs date from 1970 until Davis's death in 1984. As the liners note, he was making his music during a time that didn't want to hear it. If he'd managed to last just a few more years, he might've seen some daylight toward the end of the 80s, when soulful bluesmen like Robert Cray scraped some success. Nonetheless, we've got the songs here. And they're something to behold.

    Elf Power
    Back to the Web

    Hey, Elf Power hits the big time! And what do you know? The music is as eclectic and wide-ranging as ever.

    And while the stylistic nature of the songs is still radically incoherent, the folks at Ryko made damn sure there's a central theme to the sound. The production keeps this almost anarchic album together. There's a full and rich feel to every song that overcomes any other differences.

    All Elf Power is trying to do is channel the history of rock music through a vaguely-60s filter. There are plenty of proggy bits, a few hippie-drippy bits, parts where you'd swear you could hear a sitar (but can't), a dash of americana and some serious big rock boulders as well. All stirred into the aforementioned lush carpet of sound. Very nice.

    Sometimes good things happen to good bands. And sometimes a bigger label can convince a band to tone down the eccentricity just enough to make a great album. I think that's what happened here.

    30 Irving Place
    3rd Floor
    New York, NY 10003-2303
    www: http://www.rykodisc.com

    Final Fantasy
    He Poos Clouds

    The solo side of Arcade Fire's Owen Pallett, Final Fantasy stands with feet planted firmly in the realms of art and pop. And while it would be tempting to say the "art" side of the equation is borne out by the reliance on a string quartet (as part of a fully-stocked chamber music ensemble), the truth of the matter is that Pallett is more adventurous in the way he writes rather than the way he arranges his songs.

    The strings give an immediacy to the sound. Each of these songs has an urgency demanded by the insistent strings and classical percussion. They're hard to ignore, even as Pallett's melodic flights range farther and farther afield.

    I like the sound, and I love the way Pallett takes risks. These are not simple little songs for the masses. These songs sound the way they do because that's how Pallett wants them to sound. You might think that every artist works that way. But only the most naive would subscribe to that notion.

    A curiosity with steel underpinnings. Final Fantasy (I'm not even going to venture a guess as to the copyright questions involved with the name) is a most worthy endeavor. Pallett proves with this second album that he's got the chops to make music his way.

    Tomlab Records
    c/o Thomas Steinle
    D-50672 Koln
    www: http://www.tomlab.com

    Sun & Glacier

    Kinetic is, indeed, kinetic, but not in the way you might intuit. The songs do seem to possess an ever-flowing stream of energy, but more often than not that energy is gentle rather than throttling.

    And so these songs move with unparalleled grace, flowing along their paths like majestic rivers approaching the sea. There is a grandeur to these often simple songs that is almost impossible to explain. It's much easier simply to feel.

    That, I suppose, is the kinetic part of the equation. These are pretty midtempo (for the most part), introspective tunes that remind me of Seam and other cool 90s outfits. Not particularly complicated or involved, but still possessing that something which makes turning off the stereo utterly unthinkable.

    The album title is almost as instructive as the band name. The light within the cracks of glaciers can seem to emanate from all sides. The same goes for these songs. Their power is palpable, yet invisible. I like that.

    Paribus Records
    www: paribusrecords.com

    Model One
    Rooms EP

    Six more songs from these boys, and its obvious they haven't changed much from their 80s pop-meets-indie rock formula that worked so well before. And when I say 80s pop, I'm talking about latter-day OMD or Tears for Fears, not strict new wave stuff. This isn't electronic, though it certainly has a keyboard element.

    What works now is what works before: An undying commitment to gorgeous songs and the craftsmanship to follow through on the excellent writing. These are pretty songs--even the more raucous ones--and their beauty is fragile. One stray chord could mar them irrevocably.

    But that blow never comes. Model One knows what it's doing. I can't say if a label will come calling (good music is rarely in fashion, of course), but the two EPs these folks have crafted are simply stellar. Search them out at all costs.

    www: http://www.modelonemusic.com

    (Minty Fresh)

    Okay, I admit it. Female vocals sung in French almost always sound cool. But Prototypes have those cool up-and-down electronic beats and clanging guitar riffs that sound even better with the lyrical, um, pate.

    Absolutely unstoppable. Isabel Le Doussal's aggressive sex kitten pose is enthralling (is there anything more arousing than a French sneer, boys?), but the music is similarly insouciant. These songs are jaunty and playful--and more than a little titillating. Of course, I don't speak French. Maybe Le Doussal is telling me to go fuck myself. And if "Danse Sur la Merde" means what I think it does, she just might be.

    Though, you know, I could get into that. As long as the songs keep coming. The light feel of the songs, even when the keyboards get a little techno-heavy, keeps the album floating along at just the right level.

    Completely danceable and utterly charming. Prototypes take Eurotrash disco and make it something transcendent. I don't know if these songs will ever get out of my head.

    Minty Fresh
    P.O. Box 577400
    Chicago, IL 60657
    www: http://www.mintyfresh.com

    The Stills
    Without Feathers

    The title, of course, is shared with a Woody Allen story collection. I don't know if the Stills know this (the book's publication likely predates the birth of any of the band members), but I'm guessing they might.

    There's a slyness to the sound here that is really impressive. I liked the first Stiills album, but it didn't blow me away. The sound was very Smiths-y, and while there are still echoes of that here, the boys have worked really hard to find their own sound.

    Which is something of a ringing, reverb-laden guitar feel combined with intricate pop anthem construction and a palpable sense of ambition. These guys are really going after it this time around.

    Know what? I think they get there. This is a really fine album, the kind that I believe will age exceptionally well. Solid in all the right ways. Sometimes the second take is better. And when that happens, number three might just be a killer.

    Vice Records
    75 N. 4th St.
    Brooklyn, NY 11211
    www: http://www.vice-recordings.com

    The Streets
    The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living

    Mike Skinner staggers back into the ring, full of piss, vinegar and just about every other foul thing imaginable. His first two albums (especially A Grand Don't Come for Free, which might be the best album of the millennium so far) deconstructed society with the sledgehammer blows of an outsider. Now that he's a star, Skinner can have only one possible target: the cult of celebrity.

    And Jesus, does he level the boom. It would be easy to dismiss these songs as narcissistic and crude, but Skinner is a true connoisseur of vulgarity. He uses the tools of the culture in question to illustrate his satire.

    There are those who would equate Skinner and a certain Marshall Mathers. Skinner's lyrics are slightly less misogynistic, but he's scads more self-deprecating. He's the target of his songs (this is true on all his albums), and by illustrating his own flaws (real and imagined) he forces a thoughtful listener to be, well, thoughtful.

    Does he repeat himself? Yeah, especially in the beats. And there are only so many way you can say "Society is debased, cruel and generally unworthy of human participation." But damn, the guy is infernally clever. And if you don't happen to be thoughtful, you can always crank up the volume and grind your ass off. I'm not sure which reaction is more fulfilling.

    Vice Records
    75 N. 4th St.
    Brooklyn, NY 11211
    www: http://www.vice-recordings.com

    Yagihashi Tsukasa
    (Public Eyesore)

    So here's the deal. Tsukasa recorded himself drawing and then effected all that noise to the nth degree. That's it. Twelve tracks of a guy drawing.

    Hoo boy. If ever there was a question as to what is music and what is not, this album illustrates it better than anything else. I won't wade into that argument--I know what I believe. But I also believe that just about everyone who hears this will agree that is is art.

    And not just the drawings, which might be best described as "abstract Steadmanianism" (if the two included on the sleeve here are any indication), but the sounds themselves. After a while, a primal rhythm begins to flow from the deep scribbling. There is structure and purpose. And the added processing doesn't hurt, either.

    Folks like me will hear this and orgasm immdiately. I mean, this is some of the coolest shit I've ever heard. You want melody? Go somewhere else. This is for the true believers, those who treasure unique sounds and those who make them.

    Public Eyesore
    c/o Bryan Day
    2464 Harney #15
    Omaha, NE 68131
    e-mail: sistrum1@hotmail.com
    www: http://www.publiceyesore.com

    Also recommended:

    Bad Liquor Pond Ramblings (MT6)
    The album title couldn't be more appropriate. Consisting largely of spacey jams for the math set, these songs take a while to get to the point...but, by and large, the point is worth considering. I'm not sure how much geekier you can get, but then, maybe that's why I liked it.

    The Barbarellatones Invasion of the Surf Zombies! (self-released)
    A lot like the Cramps meet Deadbolt (though certainly not as inspired as either) the Barbellatones vamp their way through goofy "horror"-tinged surf and rockabilly. I don't hear much progression from the last disc I got, but then, it still makes me laugh. And that counts for a lot.
    www: www.barbarellatones.com

    Jorge Castro Cinetica (Public Eyesore)
    As the liners note, electric guitar and digital processing by Jorge Castro. Not much more than that. Castro likes to set a mood and wallow in it--and he's pretty good at that, too. The three pieces here are strikingly different in tone and ideas, which helps me get in tune with Castro's thinking. Quite intriguing.

    Down with Gender There's No Sex Like No Sex (MT6)
    I'm not sure why it took six people to record these electro-pop tunes, but that's the beside the point. When Down with Gender gets in touch with its inner honey hook, then these pieces explode into loveliness. When the boys toss off their chorus into the same dorky/annoying territory as the lead vocals, well, I got a bit bored. Childish, puerile, immature...and often terribly appealing despite all that.

    Fernando Enter to Exit (In Music We Trust)
    "Howard Hughes" is a brilliant pop song, one of the best I've heard all year. The rest of the pieces here are fair to middling (with a couple that are bit better than that; From Now On" and "Everybody Knows" are also worth a mention). But it's like one band recorded that first song, and another went did the others. Fernando doesn't stick to one sound, which is cool, but it seems to have struck gold just once this time out. But man, "Howard Hughes" is a great song.

    Earl Gaines The Lost Soul Tapes (AIM)
    Coming from the same vault that sprung the Geater Davis reviewed earlier in this issue, these 20 songs from Earl Gaines are more than worth adding to your soul collection. Gaines has a rough-edged voice with a decent range--think Rod Stewart when he was in Faces (that's a compliment, by the way). The arrangements are solid late 60s soul, lots of horns and percussion and all that. Quite a nice set.

    Hot One Hot One (self-released)
    Raucous rock and roll from a tight foursome. Nothing particularly distinctive about these folks, but the songs are exceptionally well-crafted and the production just pops them out from the speakers. I simply wish there was more here to remember.

    The Machine Gun TV Go (Public Eyesore)
    Goofy electronic pop played through some of the most intense distortion mankind has ever produced. Thing is, the excess works. I don't think the songs themselves are that interesting, but when they're placed behind this wall of sonic steel they take on an entirely new life. Weird and cool.

    Mardo The New Gun (House of Restitution)
    I like these guys. Not enough to blow a load over them or anything, but there's something appealing about a power rock trio that sings about smoking and drinking and fucking and all that. This is the second disc I've heard from these boys, and this one is just as over-the-top as the first. Good to know youth isn't wasted on everyone.

    The Modern Machines Take It, Somebody! (Dirtnap)
    Yet another stripped-down, straight ahead rock and roll band on Dirtnap. These guys are a bit more contemplative (some songs are slower than 120 bpm!) than most labelmates, but in general, adrenaline rules the day here. Spry and enjoyable.

    My Education Moody Dipper EP (Thirty Ghosts)
    Three new songs with four remixes sandwiched in-between. Remixes are interesting territory for the band considering the muscular string rock instrumentals these guys play, but they work. A nice place marker while we wait for the next full-length.

    The Rakes Capture/Release (Dim Mak/V2)
    I'm withholding final judgment on this one. I really like the tossed-off sound of the songs--the sort of thing that seems to be a Britpop trademark. And I do think there's more going on here than I can here right now. But it'll take me a few months to really figure out how good this one might be. Worth a chance, to be sure.

    The Ralph Jones Band Just for the Scenery (State Bird Recordings)
    Highly meandering songs, the sort of disjointed affair that often knocks me flat. This one merely strikes a glancing blow, and I'm not sure why that is. Sometimes I don't think these boys (none of them named Ralph Jones, natch) know where they're going. And sometimes I simply don't like where they end up. But there's no question something interesting is going on.

    12 Summers Old Hair Spray & Hand Grenades (Sub-Verse)
    More well-crafted emo-ish stuff. Not particularly distinctive or unusual, but simply solid. Yes, I'd like to hear the guys take a few more chances (and recycle fewer .38 Special riffs), but stuff like this makes long car rides flash by much faster.

    Zom Zoms Yellow Rainbow (Omega Point)
    Utterly lunatic (not to mention manic) electronic pop. Zom Zoms don't vary from the formula they've set down in the past: Play warped melodies very fast and hope the faux-heroic vocals can keep up. Lots and lots of fun.

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